The Americas Division is responsible for political relations with 35 states on the American continent from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean. Its main task is to coordinate Swiss interests in the countries of this region.
The Division is in regular contact with Switzerland's representations in the countries concerned (embassies, consulates general, consulates, honorary consulates, Swiss liaison and programme offices). It plays an active role in determining and implementing bilateral foreign policy. It regularly analyses and monitors current events and the development of the political, economic and humanitarian situation on the American continent. Its main activities include:
coordination of the bilateral activities of the different departments of the Federal Administration;
development of policy positions and implementation of Swiss foreign policy at bilateral level in consultation with Switzerland's diplomatic representations in the countries concerned and the 16 embassies of these states in Bern;
formulation of policy recommendations and strategies to shape Swiss policy on the Americas;
organisation, preparation and follow-up of trips abroad by the Head of the FDFA and the State Secretary; development of dossiers in preparation of trips abroad by the President of the Swiss Confederation and by other Heads of Department;
preparation of visits by foreign delegations to the Head of the FDFA and the State Secretary;
preparation of information about bilateral relations with the countries of the Americas for the Federal Council, Parliament, the Federal Administration, the media and interested citizens;
cultivation of contacts with interested circles, such as chambers of commerce, parliamentary associations, charities and non-governmental organisations;
Management of several protecting power mandates for third states by the Foreign Interests Service, which is attached to the Americas Division.
The Americas Division is divided into two regional coordination teams: North and Central America Regional Coordination, which also covers the Caribbean, and South America Regional Coordination. The regional coordination teams are responsible for the coordination and systematic cultivation of bilateral relations with countries in the region. They are the hub between Swiss representations in the Americas and the Federal Administration. They also cultivate contacts with the embassies of countries of the Americas which are accredited in Switzerland, and with external bodies which have dealings with the region.
Three priorities should be mentioned in this context:
strengthen relations with G20 member countries and other like-minded countries with a view to working together to tackle global challenges;
help to consolidate the rule of law and human rights in the region with a view to promoting democracy and development in the region, especially in countries with weak institutions or autocratic tendencies;
improve the framework conditions for the benefit of the Swiss economy, exploiting collaboration opportunities in future-oriented areas such as research, science and technology.
Regional Coordination North and Central America
Regional Coordination North and Central America is responsible for Switzerland's bilateral relations with the US, Canada, Mexico, the Central American states and the states of the Caribbean. The US occupies a commanding position in this regard as it is by far Switzerland's most important partner outside Europe. This applies both to economic relations and to Switzerland's international and multilateral activities. Political consultations with the US take place on an annual basis. Switzerland also seeks regular contact with American interlocutors in the margins of multilateral events. Switzerland also has regular political contacts with Canada and Mexico, which are both members of the G20. These two countries are important partners for Switzerland as regards economic relations and cooperation in multilateral forums. In the Caribbean the main focus is on Cuba and Haiti, where Switzerland runs a substantial cooperation and reconstruction programme
Regional Coordination South America
South America Regional Coordination is responsible for Switzerland’s bilateral relations with 12 countries in South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela) and the five southern countries in the Lesser Antilles. It also coordinates federal policy on these countries. With a total of nine embassies, Switzerland has an extensive network of diplomatic relations in South America. Switzerland's close and diverse bilateral relations, as well as major investments, reflect its strong historical ties with the region (Swiss migration in the 19th and 20th centuries). Switzerland cultivates regular political contact with Brazil (BRICS and G20), Argentina (G20), as well as Colombia, Chile and Peru (together with Mexico, these three countries make up the Pacific Alliance, in which Switzerland has observer status). Development cooperation efforts focus on Colombia (SECO, SDC, HSD), Bolivia (SDC) and Peru as regional hubs of two of the SDC’s Global Programme Divisions: Water, and Climate Change and Environment.
Foreign Interests Service
The Foreign Interests Service manages a number of protecting power mandates. For example, it represents the interests of the US in Iran, of Iran in Egypt, of Russia in Georgia, and of Georgia in Russia. Switzerland's safeguarding of the interests of the US in Iran is based on a comprehensive (consular and diplomatic) mandate. The remaining mandates are more formal. Local matters are handled by the foreign interest sections of the embassies in the countries concerned and by their own personnel. These foreign interest sections are placed under Swiss protecting power under international law.
Switzerland's mandate for the US and Iran goes back to the hostage crisis of 1980. Since then, all consular matters, with the exception of visas, for American citizens visiting or residing in Iran, e.g. passport applications, changes in civil status, social insurance, consular protection and notarial services, have been looked after by the American Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and the Foreign Interests Service within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern. The latter also acts as a liaison office to the American Embassy in Bern